Low real estate values generally suggest demand for an area or building type is no longer sought after and we don’t need more of it. But in Gateway Cities with substantial assets, this isn’t always the case. Weak markets in these settings are often the result of barriers to redevelopment rather than lack of demand for urban space. Contamination, blight, outdated building systems, crime, fragmented ownership, and a host of other challenges deflate values, making it difficult to reposition real estate for productive new uses. With limited public resources for urban revitalization, a strategic approach is needed to address these weak market conditions so that we can capture the full value of Gateway Cities as engines of regional growth in today’s economy.

Working with Gateway City economic development leaders and Alan Mallach—a nationally-recognized expert on economic development in older industrial cities—MassINC put forward a “Transformative Development” strategy in a 2013 white paper. The paper defined the transformative development approach as “public and private financial support for projects that catalyze significant follow-on investment in weak markets, leading over time to the transformation of an entire downtown or urban neighborhood.”

Massachusetts has made considerable progress translating a conceptual transformative development strategy into a coherent transformative development policy. The first step was a bill introduced by the Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus in 2013. Provisions from this bill creating the Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) at MassDevelopment were incorporated into a larger economic development package signed by Governor Patrick in 2014.

MassDevelopment quickly put together a capable team, and the agency has worked hard to provide Gateway Cities with a variety of new tools to build engagement and draw attention to TDI districts targeted for revitalization in the short-term; generate momentum by making modest real estate investments in these strategic locations in the medium-term; and facilitate a stream of coordinated development projects, leading to private investment and higher property valuation in the long term.

Governor Baker has singled out the TDI approach as consistent with his broader economic development strategy for the Commonwealth. Since taking office, the administration has worked hard to nurture and support the program, including providing a new $45 million capital authorization in the Governor’s 2016 economic development bill.

As a champion for concerted efforts to increase the growth and vitality of Gateway Cities across our Commonwealth, MassINC continues to pursue the transformative development concept, examining implementation of the policy and searching for new opportunities to refine and build upon the approach.



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